Tag Archives: august

Owen Hughes: 2014 Reviews Part 2 – Jul-Dec

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

Following part one of my year in review articles where I picked out my favourite first-time watch of each month in 2014 (excluding new releases) from January to June, it’s about time I got my arse in gear and wrote up my second and final piece. So here it is! Starting with July….


the great white silenceJuly – Samaritan Girl (2004); THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE (1924); Blue is the Warmest Color (2013); Forgotten Men (1933); Peeping Tom (1960); Excision (2012); Red Sorghum (1987); Amores Perros (2000); Splinter (2008); Audition (1999)

Originally released in 1924 but recently restored by the magicians who work at the BFI to a gloriously high definition standard, The Great White Silence uses real footage from Captain Scott’s two-year long ill-fated journey to the South Pole aboard the Terra Nova ten years earlier. Nevertheless, it is as provocative and inspirational now as I’m sure it would’ve been to those viewing it 90 years ago. I was completely taken by surprise with it. In fact, I’ve no memory of even adding it to my LOVEFiLM rental list! However it got there, I’m glad it did because I have never been taken aback by the breathtaking beauty in a documentary quite like I was with this. I had no idea that this 100 year old footage even existed, let alone that the expedition was immortalised by Herbert G. Ponting. It was absolutely fascinating to see Captain Scott and his crew trampling snow underfoot that had never seen human life before. The optimism in the air is captured tremendously well considering there wasn’t even any sound recorded, just film footage. Unsurprisingly, that does give proceedings a rather ominous tone given the fact we know what ends up happening to Scott and his four friends. It’s just a tremendous documentary and an incredible restoration to boot.


secret sunshineAugust – House (1977); Revenge of the Ninja (1983); The Battery (2013); American Movie (1999); The Battle of Algiers (1966); Doomsday Book (2012); Oasis (2002); SECRET SUNSHINE (2007); A Separation (2011); Pastoral: To Die in the Country (1974)

With a week in the middle of the month where I was away, and with FrightFest leading me to catching up on a few new-release horrors, I saw very few first time watches that weren’t actually released in 2014. However, for my birthday I did receive an imported copy of Lee Chang-dong’s (the guy who made Peppermint Candy, which I talked about in Part 1) Secret Sunshine. Starring one of my favourite Korean actors, Song Kang-ho, in a supporting role and Jeon Do-yeon absolutely batting it out of the park in the lead role, it’s one of the most moving and genuinely heart-touching performances I have ever seen. After moving from the big city to her recently deceased husband’s small home town in order to start over, and then suffering further tragedy as her only son goes missing, you are completely dragged under the waves of emotional outpouring with no strength to fight against the tides. As she’s constantly battered by family and friends, by well wishers and local creeps, in her fragile state she reaches out for something to soothe her pain. When she finds it in the communal church going community, Lee Chang-dong attempts to unearth exactly why religion and faith can protect someone from their grief, whilst all the time analysing and exploring the fragility of such a thing. It was such a traumatic watch for me that I literally had to take a break in the middle of the movie to go and get a cup of tea! But like with Peppermint Candy, like Poetry, Green Fish and like Oasis (which I also watched for the first time in August), it’s the complexity of the narrative interwoven with multiple layers of emotional depth that leave such a mark on the viewer and why even after pausing for a moment, I had to go back and finish the film. Alas, it was the last film of Lee Chang-dong’s I had left to watch, and it has left a hole in my cinematic heart because I know there’s no more feature length films directed by him out there left for me to consume.


ordetSeptember – American Mary (2012); The Importance of Being Earnest (2002); The Breakfast Club (1985); An Education (2009); The Midnight Meat Train (2008); Lord of the Flies (1963); ORDET (1955); Le Jour se lève (aka Daybreak) (1939); Potpourri (2011); Happiness: The Himalayan Boy and the TV Set (2013)

Released in the US as ‘The Word‘, Ordet is Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s only financially and critically (upon initial release) successful film in his entire canon. Whereas something like The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) may be one of my favourite ever films, as it is for a lot of other people too, it was a financial flop due to the surrounding controversy and lack of distribution / censorship resulting from that. His films were not always immediately accepted by critics, either. Vampyr was famously booed at festivals and became one of the leading factors in his nervous breakdown. However, back in September, you would not have heard me booing him nor his work as I became utterly engrossed with this extraordinary story. Much like Secret Sunshine come to think of it, the key aspect seems to be one of the human will power and ability of the mind, versus that of faith and religion. It tells the tale of three brothers, their devout father and Inger, married to one of the brothers who is agnostic, in a small 1920’s farming community. The youngest brother plans to marry a girl from another local “rival” community. The final brother is called Johannes, who is the most interesting character in the film by far. He used to study religious texts but has gone slightly insane and now thinks he’s Jesus Christ. As a film, it’s less about a story and more of a naturalistic look at people; how family and religion and faith all come together and what that means to different people. It may have a rather tepid pace, but this only forces you to think for yourself about what’s going on, about seeing beyond what’s there on screen, and look deeper into it. Of the five Dreyer films I’ve seen, it’s certainly the closest to bettering The Passion of Joan of Arc that he came.


corman's worldOctober – The Masque of the Red Death (1964); A Bucket of Blood (1959); The Fly (1986); The Fall of the House of Usher (1960); Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966); CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (2011); Fright Night (1985); The Intruder (1962); Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954); The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Seeing as how I’ve already written a lengthy article chronicling my attempts to watch a horror film every single day throughout October in my Horrorble Month piece, I don’t think there’s much point repeating myself! Suffice to say, I discovered during those 31 days leading up to Halloween that I am an enormous fan of Roger Corman. After inducting myself to his work primarily via Vincent Price when researching films for the Decade In Film: 1964 article, I became fascinated by him. At some point during the month I was recommended the documentary Corman’s World, which had as profound an effect on me as I think Life Itself appears to have done for Callum. Quite rightly a hero to many thanks to his plethora of b-movies, both those directed and the hundreds he produced, to fans and colleagues alike (indeed, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Peter Fonda, Dick Miller etc all pay tribute to him in the documentary). The ambition and drive that Roger Corman has is infectious and an inspiration. If you want to make a movie, then do it. Don’t wait for somebody to tell you that you can, or that you’re good enough. If you’re prepared to work hard and if you are talented, then you can make it. Eventually. Maybe.


nashville_b3.tifNovember – Life is Beautiful (1997); NASHVILLE (1975); Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988); My Bloody Valentine (1981); Creepshow 2 (1987); Panic Room (2002); Miller’s Crossing (1990); Monkey Shines (1988); Black Rain (1989); The Mummy (1959)

I did not do it! I did not pick The Room after Carole made us watch in for the podcast! I didn’t! It’s bullshit. I did not! Oh, hi folks. November was not a fantastic month for first time watches for me (excluding 2014 releases, of course). Barely any of those listed above scored any more than 3.5 stars out of 5. Well, excluding the Robert Altman directed, Joan Tewkesbury written musical drama Nashville, that is. As anyone who has read our Meet the Critics page will be aware, I bloody hate musicals. Even more so when it is essentially country music. To give a little bit of context as to why I ended up watching this; for much of November, my internet was down. This meant I finally had to open that envelope from LOVEFiLM (yes, it’s a perennial problem that I leave them on the side unopened for up to 6 weeks at a time before bothering with them) and put on the three hour long DVD. After 20 minutes in, I really wanted to give up on Nashville. It just wasn’t winning me over, I hated the music, it seemed completely devoid of plot and interesting characters, and was so, so slow. Even 20 minutes from the end, despite a vast improvement, I was still checking the digital display on my blu-ray player, trying to work out how long was left. And then…. it ended. And I was gutted. Quite unaware of exactly what had happened, it seems that despite my protestations at terrible country music, an inordinate run time and a lack of uniquely interesting characters, I was actually gutted that Nashville had finished. So I sat there, I thought about it, and came to the conclusion that actually, I had enjoyed it. More than enjoyed, I had really, really liked it. I realised that the character is the place, and the people, and the music, and all that it entails. The story is the simple story of life. Of celebrity, of love, of exploitation, of triumph, humiliation, of belonging, of culture, of family… of Nashville. It wasn’t just a well acted and well shot film. It was a key hole and I had been peering through it solidly for 160 minutes, confused, enthralled and unaware.


3-ironDecember – Brother (2000); Bait (2012); Skeletons (2010); Afflicted (2012); Labyrinth (1986); Willow (1988); Scrooge (1951); The Coast Guard (2002); L.A. Confidential (1997); 3-IRON (2004)

December became mostly a month of fantasy films. After watching the entire extended edition Lord of the Rings trilogy, and re-watching the two Hobbit films in preparation for The Battle of the Five Armies in November, I ended up ploughing through films like Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Willow, Legend, Krull and so on. Yet, it wasn’t any of these that were my favourite first time watches during December. In fact, towards the very end of the month, in that gap between Christmas and New Year, I watched a boat load of Kim Ki-duk movies. Moebius, his entirely dialogue free story of a boy whose mother cuts his penis off in his sleep and eats it in a revenge attack against her husband/his father for sleeping around, which is as weird as it sounds, ended up making my top 10 films of the year list when submitting my votes in the Failed Critics Awards. I already liked his films like Pieta and probably his most famous work Spring Summer Fall Winter… And Spring. Yet, I had a few movies on my DVD shelf that were unwatched and what ended up becoming my favourite films of his (and of the whole of December), watched on the penultimate day of the year, was 3-Iron. Whilst nowhere near as bizarre as Moebius, or even Pieta, it was even better. The plot begins following a young man who appears to reside in the shadows (metaphorically speaking), breaking into the houses of people who are away from their homes and spends the night there. He does a few domestic chores, takes a few photos of himself around the place, that sort of thing. It’s all a bit creepy, but ultimately harmless. Upon entering one home he assumes is unoccupied, he ends up meeting Lee Seung-yeon, who appears to be in an abusive relationship. I say “appears” because neither Lee Seung-yeon nor Lee Hyun-kyoon have any dialogue. At all. The message seems to be that love can transcend language. What you feel is not restricted to the sounds that you can make with your mouth. It’s the way that what’s unsaid is actually what’s being whispered the loudest that makes 3-Iron his most beautiful, soft and haunting film. The final 5 minutes are probably the best thing he has committed to film in his entire career.


And that’s it! My favourite 120 non-2014-release first-time-watches of each month from last year. With a bit of luck, 2015 will be just as consistent with each new discovery. Thanks for reading!

The Week In Film – 29 August 2014: From Dickie Attenborough to Martin Scorsese

Welcome… to the Week In Film! No Steve this week as he was too busy trying to edit the latest Failed Critics Podcast into something that resembled coherent chat. Instead, stepping in at the last minute is Owen Hughes, rounding up what’s been happening in the world of film.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

Richard AttenboroughRichard Attenborough: A Tribute

Sad news to start us off this week as BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar winning actor/director Richard Attenborough passed away. Whether he was breaking out of POW camps in The Great Escape or saving Christmas in Miracle on 34th Street, his roles have become synonymous with iconic cinema. His delivery of lines was second to none and he’ll go down as a true legend.

He has been the star of many of the Failed Critics’ favourite films too, from 1947’s British gangster classic Brighton Rock to Spielberg’s dinosaur epic adventure movie Jurassic Park.

For that, we’d like to thank him for brightening up our lives 90-120 minutes at a time.

Another successful FrightFest

Onto more light-hearted news now as Monday saw the close of the 15th annual FrightFest held at the Vue cinema in the West End. A total of 64 films were screened over the extended weekend’s festival of all things horror.

No matter how big or small the budget, it is as much of a chance for indie film makers like Jessica Cameron [whose interview with us will be on the site soon] as it is for Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller to get their film seen by die hard fans. From Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, to Bad Milo! (a film about a monster that lives inside a man’s arse) the range of films on show catered for every kind of fan and the vast majority left FrightFest satisfied.

This year we even had our own inside man, Mike Shawcross. You can check out his opinion on the festival from the venue changes to the films screened.

Hanks, Howard and popular literature

Following news last week that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg will be unexpectedly reuniting to make a new film so shortly after it was assumed their Cornetto trilogy had been completed, this week we learned that Ron Howard and Tom Hanks will be getting together again.

They will be combining once more to adapt another Dan Brown crime-mystery novel, Inferno. Whilst on paper the plot sounds interesting, like a mix between the Liam Neeson thriller Unknown and the recent Channel 4 series Utopia, expectations are low.

Both The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons were massively popular mystery novels yet the films drew little critical praise, despite Da Vinci Code earning huge amounts in the box office. A bit like the books themselves, they were both very popular with their readers, but panned by critics.ashecliffe

Shutter Island: Ashecliffe

Martin Scorsese’s psychological thriller from 2010, Shutter Island, is set to be made into a TV series. Set in 1954, the film saw a US Marshall investigate a missing persons case at a home for the criminally insane as his own sanity is called into question.

Few solid details about the show have been confirmed, save for the fact that the title will be Ashecliffe, the name of the hospital, and that Scorsese will direct the pilot episode and Dennis Lehane will pen it. With Fargo‘s recent translation from the silver screen to the LED one, it seems a trend may be developing.

Next week, Steve will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news. 

The Week In Film – 20 August 2014: Fare thee well

Steve returns to sum up everything of interest that’s happened in the past week in the world of film and some stuff not quite in the world of film. More in the world of Failed Critics.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

jamesDiamond in the Rough

I don’t pay tribute to people often. However with the Failed Critics founder James Diamond leaving the site, as a regular at least, I felt it only right to say a few words.

James started Failed Critics around two years ago now because he loves film. He created this blog and podcast from nothing and has been kind enough to tolerate my involvement for that time despite me being completely ignorant of the film-making process and barely able to be coherent and eloquent in a discussion about film.

Furthermore without him we would not have Failed Critics which you all (I assume) enjoy reading and listening to and many of us enjoy writing and podcasting for.

Thanks James.

Cornetto Quadrology

After ‘The World’s End’ we thought the Wright/Pegg double act had come to its natural end. However it has been confirmed that the duo will make another film together.

They, along with Nick Frost, have been the driving force behind Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and the aforementioned The World’s End.

They have successfully sent up and parodied pop culture, zombie films, buddy cop movies and more. With Wright having his well-publicised fall out with Marvel over Ant Man could we see them rip in to the Super Hero genre next?baloo

The Jungle Books

I’m confused. They are making two Jungle Book movies at the same time. Not a prequel/sequel and a remake of the original but two movies by two studios, as far as I can see.

Ironically though Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan for the second time in his career.

More Comic Book News

Dwayne’ The Rock’ Johnson will play either Black Adam or Shazam in an upcoming DC Comic book movie adaptation.

Shazam is an orphan who can transform into a hero merely by uttering the word Shazam. It’s hardly transforming by eating a banana is it?

To be honest the Rock sounds more like someone Marvel would cast in one of their roles rather than DC/WB who seem to be taking the serious route.

Join us next week when no doubt more news will have occurred and Steve will have witnessed it.

 

The Week in Film – 15 August 2014: 26 Years Buried in the Deepest Darkest Jungle

The second entry into our weekly round up of all the weeks film news worth knowing about, as per Steve’s wont. Fury and sadness abound.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

robin williamsRobin Williams: A Tribute

Only a short time ago we learnt of the sad and tragic death of Robin Williams. We have already paid tribute to him on our podcast but such a fine actor is worthy of being paid homage to in writing as well.

If you are, like me, in your mid to late 20’s you will have first come across the fast paced and quick witted actor in family films Jumanji, Mrs Doubtfire, Hook and as the voice of the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin.

A great comedian capable of improvising at the drop of the hat his roles brought joy and laughter to millions.

But he could act as well. He won an Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting and put in stellar performances in the likes of Dead Poets Society, World’s Greatest Dad, Good Morning, Vietnam and Insomnia.

Williams was a versatile actor who could play a number of roles across a range of genres and was genuinely up there among the best in his craft.

On Failed Critics we made the decision not to discuss the reasons behind a person’s death a long time ago as frankly it is none of our business. However my thoughts and the thoughts of everyone associated with the website go out to Robin Williams’ family friends and anyone close to him.

Batman vs. Superman vs. Captain America

The big news coming out of the world of comic book movies this week is that Warner Bros. have bottled going head to head with Captain America 3 and moved forward the release date of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

You cannot blame them really. Marvel are having a roaring success with their comic book movies with pretty much everything they touch turning to gold, Guardians of the Galaxy the newest in a long stream of examples.

Perhaps though the biggest mistake is moving it to come out before Caps next outing. Come the release of the first Avengers third instalment everyone will have stopped talking about Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. If they had released it after CA3 it may well have had the same effect.power rangers

It’s Morphin Time

2016 will not only see Batman, Superman and Captain America return to the screen but the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as well.

If it is at the same level as the Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja (or Hero, depending which side of the pond you hail from) Turtles movies then it will be yet another part of my childhood ruined.

Fury to Close London Film Festival

No not Nick Fury, although I would forgive you for thinking that after all the comic book chat.

The David Ayers/Brad Pitt World War 2 film will bring the curtain down on the October festival in the UK capital.

It looks more Band of Brothers/Saving Private Ryan than Pitt’s last venture in to Nazi occupied Europe in Inglorious Basterds. Also starring Michael Pena and Shia the Beef it looks set to be a cracker.

However the film did draw criticism for filming scenes with people in full Nazi garb on Remembrance Day last year.

Next week, Steve will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news. 

The Week in Film – 6 August 2014: Ooga Chaka Ooga Ooga

Join us in a new weekly article taking a peek the week in film. Steve, the beloved host of our weekly shambolic film podcast, gives his opinion on some of the top stories this week.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

gotgHooked on a Feeling

And that feeling is one of happiness after seeing the fantastic Guardians of the Galaxy this week. The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been met with universal acclaim and huge box office takings.

I have seen some great films in the last 12 months from Oscar nominated The Wolf of Wall Street and 12 Years a Slave to inspirational sports documentary Next Goal Wins and none of them made me want to sit down and watch them again the same day. With Guardians I would have happily gone back to the cinema in the evening to view it a second time.

James Gunn was let loose with the studio’s riskiest film considering the characters are not that well known among the general population and perhaps lack the same draw as Iron Man or Captain America.

But a fun trailer, five star reviews, great performances, hilarious jokes, a banging soundtrack and stunning visuals have turned this into a contender for Marvel’s best film yet.

Inbetweeners a Rock and a Hard Place

It is always a worrying sign when movies forgo press screenings or advance screenings but hopefully this will not be the case with the imaginatively titled ‘The Inbetweeners Movie 2’.

The first film, set during Simon, Will, Neil and Jay’s first lads’ holiday, was a surprising success, raking in £45m at the box office and managed to bridge the gap between sitcom and feature film that many comedies fail to do.

The trailer for the second film has not exactly been packed full of laughs but hopefully this is down to the fact that a trailer played on TV or before a 12A film has to err on the side of caution.brent1

Milligan, Cleese, Everett…Brent?

Ricky Gervais has announced plans to bring his most iconic creation (no, not Karl Pilkington) David Brent to the big screen.

Brent first appeared in mockumentary sitcom ‘The Office’, written by Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and became one of the funniest characters in British TV history and even breaking America leading to a US spinoff version.

Brent came back for Comic Relief and a few Youtube videos and despite fears of a dead horse being flogged Gervais retained the humour of Wernham Hogg’s finest.

Gervais on the big screen has generally not been a success and it remains to be seen if Merchant will be back to co-write but hopefully this will be more Alpha Papa and less Mr Bean’s Holiday.

Who You Gunna Call? Paul Feig!

The director of Bridesmaids and The Heat has been linked with taking the reins of the third Ghostbusters film which could star an all-female lead cast (no immature ectoplasm jokes from me).

Why we quite need a third Ghosbusters film I don’t know.

Next week, Steve will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news.